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Christ was persecuted, but what about Christians?
Roman persecution of Christians was depicted in paintings such as "The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer" by Jean-Leon Gerome.
March 30th, 2013
10:00 PM ET

Christ was persecuted, but what about Christians?

CNN examines the tumultuous early years of Christianity in a special narrated by Liam Neeson. Watch “After Jesus: The First Christians,” Sunday at 8 p.m. ET.

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) She walked into the Roman arena where the wild beasts awaited her. She trembled not from fear but from joy.

Her name was Vibia Perpetua. She was just 22, a young mother singing hymns as the crowd jeered and a lion, leopard and wild cow encircled her.

One of the beasts attacked, hurling her to the ground. She covered an exposed thigh with her bloody robe to preserve her modesty and groped in the dust for her hair pin so she could fix her disheveled hair.

And when a Roman executioner approached Perpetua with a sword, her last words before collapsing were aimed at her Christian companions: “Stand fast in the faith, and love you all one another and do not let our sufferings be a stumbling block to you.”

Millions of Christians worldwide will celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus on this Easter Sunday. But the story of how the church rose to prominence after Jesus’ death is being turned upside down.

According to a belief passed down through the centuries, the church grew because of Roman persecution. The blood of Christian martyrs such as Perpetua became “the seed of the church,” said third-century church leader Tertullian. It’s the Hollywood version of Christianity reflected in epic biblical films such as “Ben-Hur” and “The Robe.” Vicious Romans relentlessly targeted early Christians, so the story goes, but the faith of people like Perpetua proved so inspiring that Christianity became the official religion of Rome, and eventually the largest religion in the world.

But that script is getting a rewrite. The first Christians were never systematically persecuted by the Romans, and most martyrdom stories with the exception of a handful such as Perpetua's were exaggerated and invented, several scholars and historians say. It wasn’t just how the early Christians died that inspired so many people in the ancient world; it was how they lived.

“You had much better odds of winning the lottery than you would have becoming a martyr,” says Joyce E. Salisbury, author of “The Blood of Martyrs: Unintended Consequences of Ancient Violence.”

“The odds were pretty slim. More people read about martyrs than ever saw one.”

Do Christians have a martyr complex today?

The debate over exactly how many Christians were persecuted and martyred may seem irrelevant centuries later. A scholarly consensus has indeed emerged that Roman persecution of Christians was sporadic, and that at least some Christian martyrdom stories are theological tall tales.

But a new book by Candida Moss, a New Testament professor at the University of Notre Dame, is bringing that message to the masses.

Moss says ancient stories of church persecution have created a contemporary cult of bogus Christian martyrs. She says too many American Christians are acting like they’re members of a persecuted minority, being thrown to the lions by people who simply disagree with them.

Professor Candida Moss, author of "The Myth of Persecution," says most stories of Christian martyrs were fabricated.

She cited former Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Romney claimed last year that President Barack Obama was waging a “war against religion,” and Santorum said the gay community “had gone out on a jihad” against him. Other Christians invoke images of persecution when someone disagrees with them on controversial issues such as abortion or birth control, says Moss, whose "The Myth of Persecution" was recently released.

The problem with invoking persecution is it implies your opponents are evil and no common ground can be found with evil,  Moss says.

“When someone is persecuting you" she says, "there is no room for dialogue."

Others say Moss’ claim is dangerous.

People such as Perpetua did die because of their beliefs. The first Christians were tortured, reviled and held in contempt by Romans and their example helped the church grow, they say.

The Rev. Robert Morgan, author of  "On This Day in Christian History: 365 Amazing and Inspiring Stories about Saints, Martyrs and Heroes, " says it’s true that some of the accounts of martyrdom were “undoubtedly embellished” and that many of the persecution stories were “handed down in an atmosphere of confusion and pressure.”

Still, being a Christian in the first century was a risky move persecution was significant. Jesus and most of his apostles were executed, he says.

“To deny the history of the movement is a way of attacking the movement,” Morgan says.

Some opposition to contemporary Christians is indeed evil, Morgan says. Christians are being killed today in places such as Nigeria and North Africa.

“Christians do not have a victim’s mentality,” Morgan says. “They take their stands, they know what they believe and they do good in this world. They are the ones who have established orphanages, hospitals and charitable institutions. For some reason, there’s this animosity against them.”

Hatred of Christians is woven into much of the New Testament. Jesus constantly warned his followers to expect persecution. The Apostle Paul wrote many of his epistles from jail. And the death of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, is dramatically recorded in the New Testament book the Acts of  the Apostles.

The Easter message itself is a story of martyrdom Jesus, unjustly executed by the Romans. The idea that Christians are at war with demonic forces in the world is reflected throughout the New Testament, says Bryan Litfin, a theology professor at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

“If Jesus was just a soft moral teacher who taught us to love one another and petted little babies, the Romans wouldn’t have crucified him,”  Litfin says. “Jesus is a polarizing figure, then and today. The early Christians weren’t foisting a narrative out of the blue about being martyrs. ”

'Like the action heroes of the ancient world'

If the first Christians pictured themselves as waging war against the world, the martyrs were their version of the Navy SEALs. They were the elite Christians who inspired and united others of their faith.

There was a purpose behind spreading stories of persecution: Nothing brings a new group closer together than a common enemy, Moss says.

“The idea that you are persecuted forges a concrete identity,” Moss says. “It really solidifies your sense of group identity.”

The stories of Christian persecution were so popular that they spawned a market during the first centuries after the crucifixion. The places where martyrs were born and died became early tourist stops. Towns competed with one another to draw rich pilgrims seeking martyr memorabilia, Moss says.

“People would go and buy the equivalent of a T-shirt,” Moss says. “You’d have all these little combs with saints on them that people would buy, and lamps with saints on them. People would also buy fruit from trees that grew in the vicinity of martyrs’ graves. Of course, the prices were completely jacked up.”

Church leaders began to embellish and invent stories of martyrdom to inspire the faithful but also to settle theological feuds, Moss says. If, say, a bishop wanted to denounce a rivals’ theology, he spun a story in which a martyr denounced the same doctrine with his last breath, Moss says.

“Martyrs were like the action heroes of the ancient world,” Moss says. “It was like getting your favorite athlete endorsing your favorite brand of soda.”

But how often did Romans force Christians to endure torture or die for their faith? Christianity took roughly 300 years to conquer Rome. The emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in 312 and gave Christians religious freedom.  Christianity became the official religion of Rome by the end of the fourth century,  scholars say.

For the first 300 years of the church, Christians were often ridiculed and viewed with contempt. But Roman leaders spent about "less than 10 years" out of the first 300 actually persecuting Christians, Moss says. There are only six reliable cases of Christian martyrdom before A.D. 250 out of “hundreds of stories,” including Perpetua’s, she says.

Many scholars have greeted Moss’ contention that Roman persecution of Christians was exaggerated with a shrug. They say it was common knowledge in the academic world.

“There weren’t that many Christians who were persecuted,” says Gail O’Day, dean of the Wake Forest University School of Divinity in North Carolina. “When you actually read the Roman historical records, the Christians just weren’t that important to them. Most Christians just got along with empire.”

When Roman persecution did occur, though, it was vicious. The Emperor Nero covered fully conscious Christians with wax and used them as human torches. Other Christians were skinned alive and covered with salt, while others were slowly roasted above a pit until they died.

Perpetua’s passion

One of the most famous martyrs was Perpetua.

She lived in Carthage in North Africa (modern-day Tunisia) and was arrested in March 203 with four others as they prepared for baptism. The Roman Emperor Septimius Severus had decreed that any new conversion to Christianity would result in death.

History remembers Perpetua because she kept a diary during her imprisonment. It’s called "The Passion of Perpetua and Felicity" (Felicity was a slave girl arrested with Perpetua). It’s the oldest-surviving document from a Christian woman. The emotion in the diary is almost unbearable. Perpetua describes the pain of leaving her infant son, who she was still nursing. She describes a prison visit from her weeping father, who kissed her hands while trying to get her to renounce her faith.

Perpetua's father visited her in prison, begging her to think of him and renounce her faith.

A narrator picks up the story in the diary after Perpetua was sent to her death. He says in the diary that Perpetua’s faith was so inspiring it caused the prison’s warden, a man called Pudens, to convert. The narrator also describes Perpetua's death.

While she was imprisoned, Perpetua says God gave her visions to reassure her. After one, she wrote:

“I understood that I should fight, not with beasts but against the devil. But I knew that mine was the victory.”

You can’t discount the power of such stories, even if persecution “wasn’t extremely common,” says Litfin, the Moody Bible Institute professor.

Persecution was central to the rise of the early church, he says.

“How many people in your church would have to be pulled out and executed and tormented for it not to have a tremendous effect for many years on your memory and self-perception,” Litfin says. “The early Christians are not foisting a narrative out of the blue about being matyrs.”

The early Christians' secret weapon

Other scholars say it wasn't simply persecution that helped the church grow. Instead, they say, Christians had a secret weapon.

The martyrs may have gotten all the press, but it was ordinary Christians who got it done by the way they treated friends and strangers.

Life in ancient Rome was brutal and nasty, says Rodney Stark, author of "The Triumph of Christianity." Stark’s well-regarded book gives one of the most detailed descriptions of the early church and ancient Rome.

Forget those antiseptic portraits of Roman cities you see in biblical moves such as “The Robe.” Roman cities were overcrowded, raw sewage ran in the streets, people locked their doors at night for fear of being robbed and plagues were rampant. Soap had not yet been invented, Stark says.

“The stink of the cities in the summertime must have been astounding,” Stark says. “You would have smelled a city miles before you got to it.”

Christians stood out because they created a “miniature welfare state" to help the less fortunate, Stark says. They took in infant girls routinely left for dead by their parents. They risked their lives to tend the sick when plagues hit and others fled in terror. They gave positions of leadership to women when many women had no rights, and girls as young as 12 were often married off to middle-aged men, he says.

Ordinary Romans might have thought Christians were odd but liked having them for neighbors, Stark says.

“If people had really been against them, I don’t think they would have grown like they did,” Stark says.

Christianity became so popular that when Rome did unleash one of its sporadic waves of persecutions, the empire couldn’t stop the church’s momentum, Stark says.

“If you knocked off a bishop, there were 20 guys waiting to be bishop,” Stark says

Christian belonging, not blood, is what drew many people, another scholar says.

The Easter story of a risen savior wasn’t distinctive in Rome’s competitive religious marketplace. Dying for one’s beliefs wasn’t considered heroic; it was expected in the Roman world, says Selina O' Grady, author of "And Man Created God: A History of the World at the Time of Jesus."

The early church, though, was radically inclusive. First-century Rome was undergoing globalization. The peace of Rome had made travel easier. People left homes and tribal ties for Rome. The empire was filled with rootless and excluded people: immigrants, traders, slaves.

The Christian message offered guidelines for living in this strange new world, she says.

“Its universal message, its proclamation of equality, unconditional love, offered everyone in the Roman Empire a new family, a new community, and a way to live,” O’Grady says.

Roman rulers eventually found reasons to support the church, she says.

The Christian message of obeying earthly masters “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's" reduced the potential for social unrest, O’Grady says.

“Christianity told the poor and lowly that their status was noble and that there would be recompense in the afterlife,” O’Grady says. “It was a wonderful recipe for creating good, obedient Roman subjects.”

A turning point for the early church was the conversion of Constantine. Scholars still debate Constantine’s motive. By that time the empire was rife with division, and Christians had become a major political bloc with members in the highest reaches of Roman society, says Stark, the sociologist.

“Constantine was interested so much in church affairs for the rest of his life, but I don’t think there’s a reason to not think he was a sincere Christian,” Stark says. “But he was also an egomaniac and an emperor.”

The growth of Christianity was too complex to be attributed to any one factor whether it be Constantine, persecution or Christianity's message of compassion and inclusion, Stark says.

“I don’t think there was a primary reason,” he says. “It was a collection of things. It was all part of a package.”

Wrapped in that package, though, were the persecution stories of people such as Perpetua.

Today, churches have been named after Perpetua; films and graphic novels have been made about her life. She is considered a saint.

Her words still inspire. People still read her diary. There’s probably a Christian somewhere in the world now facing danger who is taking courage from Perpetua’s ordeal.

One passage in Perpetua’s diary is particularly luminous.

Perpetua stopped keeping her diary just before she was sent into the arena. No one knows for sure what she felt when she faced her moment of death, but she did write what she expected to see afterward.

She wrote that God gave her a reassuring vision while in prison. In the vision, she saw a great bronze ladder ascending to heaven. At the foot of the ladder was a great serpent surrounded by swords and knives.

Perpetua said she ignored the serpent and climbed the ladder. When she arrived at the top, she saw a great garden and a white-haired man in shepherd’s clothing milking a sheep. He was flanked by thousands of others Christians dressed in white.

“And he raised his head and beheld me and said to me: Welcome child.”

The man gave Perpetua curds from the milk of the sheep, and she said it tasted sweet.

She then wrote:

“And I took it with joined hands and ate it up: and all that stood around said, Amen.”

Centuries later, millions of people who look to Perpetua are still saying amen.

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Christianity • Easter • Faith • History • Jesus

soundoff (6,965 Responses)
  1. asygifvasi

    Christianity is totally fine. I mean, as far as mythologies go, it is a decent work, Not as good as say the works fo Bulfinch, but not bad overall. It pulled its stories from a lot of surrounding religions and cobbled them together into some decent stories.

    Christians, on the other hand, who seem to think the own everything and can tell everyone what to do, need to be treated like any other aggressive neurotic children–firmly denied each and every anti-social desire they have no matter how much they whine or throw a temper tantrum.

    March 31, 2013 at 9:16 am |
  2. Lou

    I have convinced myself that gay $ex is a choice and not genetic, but then have no explanation as to why only gay people have ho.mo$exual urges. I am

    (a) A gifted psychologist
    (b) A well respected geneticist
    (c) A highly educated sociologist
    (d) A Christian with the remarkable ability to ignore inconvenient facts.

    March 31, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • asygifvasi

      You need refresher courses in basic English. What you wrote makes no sense.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • Fidgit

      Even if Being gay was a choice, what does it matter ?
      Who i choose to fall in love with and spend my life with is....NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS !!!

      Get it ?

      April 1, 2013 at 8:28 am |
  3. Believer

    Oh, It's EASTER, & Everything is all F-Ked up for many! Hey, remember the only one you have in this World is yourself! Don't ever forget that ...It's YOU & I- IT'S A LONELY WORLD!

    March 31, 2013 at 9:14 am |
    • Cesil

      You have to Love yourself more! I know how UNBELIEVER feels, He feels like people have let him down, & GOD has let him down! I do pray for him- he has a voice-maybe we should hear it a little more closely!

      March 31, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • JWT

      As a non-believer in any of the gods I have never felt that the non-existent gods have ever let me down.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:22 am |
  4. Oscar Pitchfork

    "The problem with invoking persecution is it implies your opponents are evil – and no common ground can be found with evil, Moss says." So, the first thing out of his mouth is to insist that there actually IS no evil? That every bad thing we see in the world today is just extreme points of view, that EVERYONE'S creed or faith, nomatter how unGodly it obviously is, is no ones business to say is evil or just plain wrong? I call Bull$hi! on that one...

    March 31, 2013 at 9:14 am |
  5. John

    You can always expect a Christian bash article by the marxist atheists at CNN. Glad to know CNN is on the verge of financial collapse. When I was in CNN HQ the building was run down and smelled of death and failure.

    March 31, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      In case you did not realize, one of the reasons CNN is failing is the philosopy of CNN's recent hire, refugee FOX NEWS executive, Margaret who publicly stated that CNN needs to move to the right politically.
      Yep chasing the FOX NEWS business model of appealing to the Joe SixPacks is working real well. ;)

      March 31, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      Oooops, ...Margaret Hoover...

      March 31, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Many Churches have that smell of death and failure. Particularly in Europe and Canada. Here they don't always. Sometimes they smell of the fevered sweat of fanaticism, often heavily masked with citrus cleaner

      March 31, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • Dumbster Baby

      The calibre of the people in a room goes up exponentially with their love of God.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • CJ

      Took the words right out of my mouth....I hope CNN goes down in flames.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:26 am |
  6. blake

    Christianity grew rapidly because Jesus really did die for our sins and rise from the dead. The willingness of His followers to die for their beliefs was a contributing factor. How very sad that CNN continues in its relentless far left Christianity bashing on Easter.

    March 31, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • rabidatheist

      The willingness to die confirms a story? I guess suicide bombers confirm Mohammad's stroy, and you should convert to Islam.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • jesus wasman

      jesus was a man. jesus popularity was encashed by greedy church. but all bad things meets end, so will come church's end too. jesus was a ordinary man, who was nailed to a woood plank. end of story. no need to worshipp someone hanging from a wooden plank. wake up u
      countries like india and china worship moderate religions like hinduism and buddhism, i feel those two are real religions

      March 31, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • Fidgit

      Why dont you die and prove your love ?

      April 1, 2013 at 8:34 am |
  7. roike

    I think it's funny that CNN always makes fun of Christians. Hilarious!!

    March 31, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • Sane Person

      Its actually an opinion piece written by a christian, not "CNN" (That phantasm robot machine that hates you). She does use big words that can be hard for younger folks to fully comprehend though, so I can see how that is frightening.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • Fidgit

      Christians dont read well,
      but they love that presecution thingy.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:35 am |
  8. Lou

    Millions and millions of Catholics believe that bread and wine turns into the actual flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because:

    (a) there are obvious visible changes in the condiments after the Catholic priest does his hocus pocus;
    (b) tests have confirmed a divine presence in the bread and wine;
    (c) now and then their god shows up and confirms this story; or
    (d) their religious convictions tell them to blindly accept this completely fvcking absurd nonsense.

    March 31, 2013 at 9:11 am |
  9. Mohamiss Shafique-Kaddir

    Christians failue to submit to Islam is responsible for the incitement of the violence against them . If a Christian is killed , it is the Christians fault . Blasphamy against Allah and Islam deserves death .

    March 31, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • John

      Mohammed was a false prophet.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:16 am |
    • SK

      Ha ha ha.. here is the true color of Islam! And isn't it you who just commented saying that Christians are killing Muslims?

      Search google for "Jesus Muhammad Islam" and open your eyes!

      March 31, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • SK

      Search Google for "The Religion of Peace Jesus Muhammad Islam"

      March 31, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • Bill39

      That appears to be a terrible moral flaw in Islam's fundamental beliefs.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:21 am |
  10. jes3890

    And the liberal revisionist history continues. Aside from southerners, there is only one group of people in this country that you're allowed to make fun of, mock, and revile in this country and nobody cares: Christians. Tell ya what...post a similar revisionist history article about Mohammed and see what happens. I guarantee you that the liberals would be squealing like pigs.

    March 31, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • rabidatheist

      No, I'll be more than happy to take Islam apart too.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • Bill39

      Time to give up your anti-liberal trip. The world cannot be split along liberal-conservative lines. Many real problems are more important than your fear of liberals.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • Fidgit

      Jesus was a liberal, you just lost your argument.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:37 am |
  11. SK

    Unfortunately, Ms. Moss began with a thesis- if the Christians running around to incessantly whining about "persecution" are ludicrous, mightn't the earlier persecutions be as baseless- and then misinterprets (or chooses not to treat at all) evidence in order to conform with said thesis. Her rejection of Tactius is baseless, her treatment of Pliny silly, and her decision not to deal with Suetonius a strange oversight.

    In the end, she claims that because the Romans weren't killing Christians without any kind of justification, and since they didn't just outright kill *all* the Christians, then "persecution" is hyperbole.

    Not a book for those looking for a serious treatment of the topic.

    March 31, 2013 at 9:10 am |
  12. elrey Jones

    What the Bolsheviks like Lenin, Trotsky, Yagoda, Kaganovich, and many many others did to Russian Christians in the Soviet Union was horrendous. They burned down churches, foribid religion, killed priests and civic leaders and put millions in gulags. All in all they murdered 66 million in 50 years. Is that Christian persecution? How about the SPLC targeting Christians and then having mad men go after the Christians. Look it up. Christians are targeted and especially by the bolshevik types against white people.

    March 31, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      How about the things christians have done??? Salem Witch Trials; the Scopes Monkey Trial; the Inquisition... to name a few.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:11 am |
  13. Lou

    Issues in the Garden

    Genesis 1:31 God was pleased with his creation.
    Genesis 6:5-6 God was not pleased with his creation.
    Which raises the question, how can an omnipotent, omniscient God create something he’s not pleased with?

    Genesis 2:3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
    An omnipotent being required…rest?

    Genesis 2:16-17 And the Lord God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."
    God placed temptation in the direct path of his two naïve children and allowed them to be tempted by the serpent (Genesis 3: 1-7), resulting in a single mistake that would contaminate hundreds of billions with a sin nature worthy of eternal torture?

    Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, ’You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?"
    A talking snake. Enough said.

    March 31, 2013 at 9:06 am |
  14. Lou

    Who Did the Visitors Tell of Jesus’ Empty Tomb?

    Matthew 28:8: So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."
    The visitors were overjoyed, and they ran to tell the disciples

    Mark 16:8: Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
    They were afraid, and told no one.

    Luke 24:9: When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others.
    They told the eleven and others.

    John 20:10: Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
    Mary informed Simon and the other disciple about the empty tomb, then she remained at the tomb crying.

    March 31, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      You'd think that the empty tomb would be sufficiently important that Christians would have kept up with. They mislaid it, alas. Perhaps it's wherever Jesus' remains are (which I guess were also mislaid ).

      March 31, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • JMEF

      And Cain went into the next valley and found all sorts of nubile ho-rny women in the land of Nod, sort of puts a BS on the whole Adam and Eve story.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:19 am |
  15. Jim in Florida

    CNN is certainly home for a lot of Christian bashers, can read the tired old hatred here on the boards every day.

    March 31, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Intolerance of intolerance is not hate or bashing. Religion in any form deserves ridicule, after all it has ridiculed so many others for so many years.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • SK

      @Truth Prevails. Would you dare to say the same about Islam? When was the last time CNN wrote an article critical of Islam? Spineless cowards!

      March 31, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • JJ

      @SK Islam is better than Christianity.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • SK

      @JJ if Islam is better than Christianity why don't you immigrate to a Muslim country where it is practiced in its full glory?

      March 31, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • Atheism is a form of Autism, more specifically Asperger Syndrome--Fact

      Jim,

      You are correct. They are here 24/7 thinking they can make a difference. That difference, unbeknownst to them, is prayer and action. Something that's to much work for them. Clicking a mouse is the most work you will see from an atheist.

      March 31, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      atheism=autism

      Back to spread lies and call it fact... you are making baby jesus cry with your lies.

      March 31, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • Parfin Woodell

      You get what you give,
      An eye for an eye.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:41 am |
  16. woody

    What is the SPRING EQUINOX and what does it have to do with Easter ?

    March 31, 2013 at 9:05 am |
  17. Newsguy

    It is sooo pathetic to watch how the so-called enlightened atheists spew their bigotry and hate whenever there is something publicly said about religion, especially Christianity.

    It must really bother you guys … you know, this religion stuff. I mean, to spend this much time and energy to dutifully spill your vomit in a Pavlovian reflexive reaction whenever you see or hear the word ‘Christian’ or ‘religion’ is pathological … not to mention to spend this much time on something that, as you claim, means nothing to you, is laughable, and I would suggest, beyond professional help.

    March 31, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • truth

      Persecution? How about children ra-ped and so-d-omized by the catholic church's hierarchy and the worse crimes of cover ups? Cruelty against children and worse than death as many victims suffer from the mental illness caused by the abuse.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • Newsguy

      @ "truth"

      You call this an answer? What a pethetic joker...

      March 31, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Newsguy: You have an imaginary friend...seems to the rational thinking person hat you are the one requiring help.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • SK

      @Truth Prevails These "imaginary friend" jokes are getting too boring. Can't you atheists think of anything cleverer?

      March 31, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • Newsguy

      @ "Truth" prvails

      Really? Do I? Please do tell ... and alos on what you base your "truthfull" assertion. Hmmm ... ohh yes you just immagined it ... OK, I get it. And now, time for your meds ... dear ..

      March 31, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • One one

      What could be more hateful than preaching that people who don't believe as you do will be sent to hell to be tortured forever by the god you worship? How many times is this message being spewed every Sunday on TV and in churches ?

      March 31, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • Newsguy

      @ One one

      There is a distinction between stupidity and ignorance, but in your case it is hard to distinguish between the two.

      March 31, 2013 at 9:33 am |
  18. 1 Corinthians 15

    13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

    March 31, 2013 at 9:03 am |
  19. woody

    To know the beginning of Easter is to look up at any search engine the SPRING EQUINOX .

    March 31, 2013 at 9:03 am |
  20. Randy

    The writers and scholars of this article need to read Foxes Book of Christian Martyrs. They also need to look at Nero's and Domiations persecutions. All the apostles except John were martyred. One thing that you need to remember was that Romans did not kill Christians for being Christians, but for atheism, that is not worshipping the Roman Caesar. What about all the Christians killed by Muslims, Hindi's and Atheist (China, N. Korea, etc) in the past few decades? I suggest you check out Voice of the Martyrs. The Bible is illegal in over 50 nations.

    March 31, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • DJ Reality

      Randy – How many non-Muslims have the Muslims Killed? How many Jews did the Nazi's kill? Remember the Mormon's fought Federal troops back in the 1800's. What's your point? Mine is, man has always been cruel to his brother.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.